Real Heroes

Tor is a great tool for those in need of anonymity online. But online anonymity is something spy agencies don’t like because it makes their job much harder. Therefore it seems highly probable that agents within the National Security Agency (NSA) are actively investing resources into compromising Tor. In fact all evidence indicates the agency, and other spy agencies, are doing exactly that. Thankfully evidence also indicates that there are real heroes working within those agencies to undermine such efforts:

British and American intelligence agents attempting to hack the “dark web” are being deliberately undermined by colleagues, it has been alleged.

Spies from both countries have been working on finding flaws in Tor, a popular way of anonymously accessing “hidden” sites.

But the team behind Tor says other spies are tipping them off, allowing them to quickly fix any vulnerabilities.

While the leviathan that is government is powerful it is also composed of people, many of whom have a conscience. Because of this many of the government’s nefarious acts are undermined by people within itself. If the NSA is attempting to compromise Tor then it’s very likely some of its agents are anonymously tipping off Tor’s developers, which renders the NSA’s overall efforts futile.

These are real heroes who should be celebrated. They actively put themselves at risk to fight against the illegal government activities and therefore make the world a better, and safer, place.

Boom, Headshot

More and more modern policing is becoming indistinguishable with common thuggery. Less effort has been put into protecting and serving and more effort has been put into beating and subjugating. Scenes like this, at one time a rare occurrence, are becoming expected behavior when interacting with a police officer:

Greenville officers approached a man at a Walmart parking lot on Saturday. The man appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and didn’t respond to police questions or instructions. Eventually, the officers followed the man inside the store, where they attempted to detain him. The deputies claim the man resisted, though video footage of the incident certainly makes said resistance look passive, rather than violent. But once the two cops had the man on the ground, one of them immediately began punching him in the head. I count at least 20 blows.

Hitting somebody in the head 20 times isn’t an appropriate way to apprehend them. There are far more effective and less dangerous methods of physical restraint. What really gets me though are the reactions of the witnesses. They did plead with the officer to stop but none of them intervened. I understand not intervening when a violent thug is beating on somebody, it is dangerous for your person, but there are times when it’s necessary and this is one of those times. The man being beating by the officer was in immediate danger of death or great bodily harm and that officer should be in a cage on charges of aggravated assault.

AgoraFest 2014 Summary

This weekend I was at the second annual AgoraFest. As the event’s namesake is taken from agorism it’s no surprise to know that it was total anarchy. That is to say the event was absent of coercive force, devoid of hierarchy, and much mutually beneficial trade occurred. Unlike political events, AgoraFest’s speakers didn’t spout of violent hate speech. There were no psychopaths urging the bombing of a foreign country, arrest of nonviolent people, or further militarization of the police. We were fortunate to be joined by Jack Shimek, a agorist who was good friends with agorism’s founder, Samuel Edward Konkin III. He’s working on some interesting things that I’ll discuss more when they’re announced to the public.

In addition to giving an introductory course on firearms (which was requested by an individual who didn’t even show up) and lock picking I also spent my time being the event’s network ninja. We setup a mesh network using Ubiquity NanoStation and PicoStation access points running Commotion Wireless firmware. The event was hosted at the Villa Maria in Frontenac, Minnesota so cell coverage was sparse. Likewise the Villa Maria only has Internet access in the main building. Using our access points we were able to span the distance between the main Villa Maria building and the cabins where the event took place. Overall we covered a distance of roughly 1,200 feet, which was made difficult by sparse availability of power outlets (we had one 500 foot span because there were no power outlets that allowed us to shorten the distance). While the Villa Maria’s Internet connection isn’t stellar the setup allowed us decent coverage of slow Internet access instead of no coverage at all. It was a fun experiment and I look forward to improving the network next year.

I had a great time but it was also a lot of work so I’m taking today off of blogging (at least anything other than the Monday Metal entry and this post) to recuperate. Between Defcon and AgoraFest I’m pretty burned out this month but it was well worth the hassle.

Keep Digging that Hole Officers

The law enforcers in Ferguson, Missouri seem determined to prove that under their rule the First Amendment has been entirely suspended. After the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought this point up you would think the law enforcers would back down a little bit just to create the illusion that they would respect the freedom of speech and press. Nope! Instead they decided to verbally threaten a reporter for Al Jazeera America. From the transcript of what the reporters filmed:

Officer 1: [To me] You need to take a hike.

Me: We need to shoot the sign first.

Officer 1: No, you don’t.

Me: Yeah, we do.

Officer 1: No, you don’t. You come back when it’s daylight.

Me: Sir, could you —

Officer 1: Did you hear what I said? … You want to go, we’ll go.

At this point, the officer approached me and grabbed my wrist.

Officer 1: [Holding my arm] Don’t resist. I’ll bust your ass. I’ll bust your head right here.

Me: [To JP] Are you filming this?

Officer 1: Film it! I don’t give a s—. Because you’ll go, and I’ll sure confiscate your film for evidence.

Classy. But that’s not all! As an added bonus the law enforcers all arrested a reporter for the Intercept:

Intercept reporter Ryan Devereaux was arrested this morning while on the ground covering the protests in Ferguson, Mo. According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson, who witnessed the apprehension, Ryan and a German reporter he was with were both taken into custody by members of a police tactical team. They were handcuffed and placed in a wagon, and Carson was told they were being taken to St. Louis County jail.

We haven’t been able to reach officials with the St. Louis County Police Department or Ferguson Police Department to find out if Ryan has been charged, or under what pretext he was detained. But needless to say, it’s an outrage that he was stopped and handcuffed by police in the course of lawfully doing his job on the streets of Ferguson. We are trying to contact Ryan now.

I think the law enforcers in Ferguson fail to understand that we live in the era of social media and ubiquitous cameras. Silencing journalists isn’t enough to suppress a story. Any individual can take pictures and record video to post on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other sites. Events can no longer be censored and every attempt to do so just stirs up more anger.

On the Michael Brown Shooting

I’ve annoyed a lot of electrons writing about the civil unrest going down in Ferguson, Missouri but I haven’t dedicated any time to the shooting that lead up to the unrest. There’s a reason for this. As of this writing there is no evidence supporting any side of the story. But there are a lot of people who are parroting the claim that the officer, Darren Wilson, was assaulted and a lot of people parroting the claim that Michael Brown was an angel. Let’s look at the source of these claims.

First, let’s look at the claim that Brown robbed a convenience store before the shooting. When Wilson’s name was released the Ferguson Police Department also released surveillance camera footage supposedly showing Brown stealing cigars from a convenience store. Others have used that footage to demonstrate that Brown did pay for those cigars. Which story is true? Who knows. Heck evidence exists that Wilson didn’t know Brown was a robbery suspect during their encounter, which would make the entire debate pointless.

Second, let’s look at the claims that Wilson was attacked by Brown. Claims have been made that Wilson suffered facial fractures, which would indicate he was in a physical confrontation with Brown. The first place I saw this claim made was the Gateway Pundit, which cited two unnamed sources. The x-ray imagine included with that article was sourced from this article describing blowout fractures, it isn’t an x-ray of Wilson himself. Fox News also picked up the story and also cited unnamed sources. In other words there is no evidence that Wilson was engaged in a fight with Brown. What we do have are some claims made by unknown sources. It could be true just as well as it could be false.

Third, some jimmies have been rustled over the claim that Brown was a gangster. This claim, as far as I can tell, was based on a picture released by a Kansas City police officer of a man with a wad of cash in his mouth holding a gun. According to the people circulating the picture it is of Brown. But, as it turns out, it’s probably a picture of an accused murder suspect in Oregon.

And that’s the problem with discussions about the shooting itself. No evidence exists to support any claims being made. None. Everything released so far is either speculation or fabrication. Until evidence is released about the shooting I’m going to continue to remain mostly silent about it. There’s just no point in shifting electrons to make words appear on your screen regarding it.

But Police Need Military Gear

I’m firmly in the camp that says police officers should have all surplus military gear stripped from them. They’ve been handed this gear and proven to be irresponsible with it. But there are a lot of people claiming that the police need that equipment. Sadly most of the people making this claim do so because they want the police to be protected when they’re initiating aggression against nonviolent individuals not for protecting people. Take these two letters sent to the Star Tribune by, presumably, readers:

After reading Ross Douthat’s commentary “When the police dress for war” (Aug. 19), I’m thinking he has very little firsthand experience with enforcing the law. I’m thinking that he might completely reconsider his final comment — “time to take their toys away” — if he were sent to a “drug house” on a no-knock warrant, pushed to the front of the line of cops and told to “go in there with your six-shooter and take those drugs and weapons away from those hooligans.” One or two entries like that, and I believe we would find old Ross standing in front of the line at the “SWAT store” buying the latest, greatest offerings that would put him on par with what the criminals are toting.

Richard Greelis, Bloomington

You see the police need all of those toys so they are better protected when they kick in a person’s door, burn their baby with a flashbang grenade, and shoot the family pet all in the name of stopping them from smoking a plant or using some other unpatentable drug.

Every cop who stops a car knows things can go from routine to life-or-death without warning. This is true night or day, even with Volvos driven by middle-aged white men like the author of the Aug. 17 Short Takes (“Questioning authority: Trooper wanted to be in control”). If the writer chooses to drive with illegally tinted windows, then it is he, not the law officer, who is being rude and disrespectful.

By the way, the weather was bright and sunny when the officer from West St. Paul was recently murdered. I’m sure you get the picture.

Dennis H. Roberts, Maplewood

Police officers also need those toys so they can pull you over for exceeding the arbitrarily selected speed limit, create a dangerous situation by forcing motorists to slam on their brakes or pile into another lane in order to avoid hitting the dumbass getting out of his vehicle on a major highway, and issue you a citation for being a safe driver by driving with the flow of traffic.

This is a trend I’ve noticed with police apologists. They usually use examples where police officers are the aggressors and seldom discuss situations where officers are actually protecting lives. Perhaps this is because modern police spend so much time doing the former that nobody realizes that they’re ideally supposed to be doing the latter. But I haven’t heard an apologist say that the police need surplus military gear to handle hostage situations in a way that saves the hostages’ lives or to respond to calls from wives being viciously attacked by their husbands. Some have mentioned that they need that gear to stop riots like those occurring in Ferguson but I don’t give points to government goons who “solve” problems that they created in the first place (I’m harsh, I know).

Low Speed, High Drag

I spend a lot of time making fun of the high speed, low drag crowd. Some might be surprised to learn this since everything I wear is “tactical” (which means operator who operates and areas of operations to some but means lots of useful fucking pockets and light-weight materials during the summer to me) but I find most of the firearm advice from the Super Awesome Operator (SAO) crowd to be stupid at best and dangerous at worst. Thankfully I’m not alone:

Something else that disturbs me is the desire to look cool while shooting. Way too many shooters are learning their skills from You Tube from people who have a particular look versus having skill and experience. Just because an instructor has a beard, wrap around glasses and tattoos does not mean he is an “operator” even if he does talk the lingo. Nonsense cool sounding terminology does not mean the instructor has greater skill or insight, it just means he/she spends time making stuff up. A “non-diagnostic, linear stoppage manipulation” is still just a “tap-rack” and giving it a cool sounding, complicated name does not make it better. In reality, it makes it more difficult and if you take the time to truly study armed conflict you will understand that simplicity is often times the key to prevailing in the pandemonium that results. It is not “dumbing down” training to try and make it simpler and easier to accomplish.

This is one of my biggest gripe with the SAO crowd. A large majority of them choose form over function. You can go on YouTube and find any number of people wearing a tactical vest covered in AR-15 magazines with a sidearm in a drop-leg holster doing fancy transitions, Captain Kirk rolls, and absurd shooting drills. These SAOs will wax on about how important the skills they practice are and why you should pay them money to teach you. What they almost seem allergic to is the concept of simple is generally preferable. Yes, you can Captain Kirk roll between targets to engaged them. Yes, doing so will keep you on the move. But doing so will also cause your barrel to cover a lot of things it shouldn’t be (because if your muzzle should have been covering them they would be threats you were engaging not space you were transitioning the point of impact through). It will also increase the amount of time it takes for you to aim your firearm at the next target since the motion of rolling is pretty jarring and requires the entirety of your body to move. Meanwhile a simple turn will allow you to cover less unintended space (since you can just aim your gun towards the ground during the turn) and increase the speed of target acquisition since you don’t have to realign every fucking muscle and bone in your body. Turning doesn’t look as cool though so SAO shy away from it.

Furthermore most people aren’t going to be wearing a tactical vest cover in AR-15 magazines while carrying a rifle. And most of us aren’t going to be in a situation where we have to engage the entire fucking Mongol Horde (not to mention few people survive an encounter where it’s just them versus ten or more opponents). Shooting drills that involve a bunch of targets are fun but they serve little practical purpose for a majority of people who carry a defensive firearm outside of a war zone.

As a general rule when seeking firearm instruction try to find an instructor who uses plain English, focuses on simplicity, and spends more time teaching you how to property operate a firearm than performing acrobatics. In other words if an instructor looks low speed, high drag they are more likely to teach useful skills than if they look high speed, low drag.

No First Amendment Rights in Ferguson

At this point it’s pretty fucking obvious that the First Amendment doesn’t apply in Ferguson, Missouri anymore. But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has finally come out and declared it so:

Police in Ferguson, Mo., on Monday began telling protesters – who have been gathered for days demanding justice for the death of an unarmed teenager at the hands of police – that they were no longer allowed to stand in place for more than five seconds, but had to keep moving.

“When inquiries were made to law enforcement officers regarding which law prohibits gathering or standing for more than five seconds on public sidewalks,” the ACLU of Missouri wrote in its emergency federal court filing to block the apparent policy, “the officers indicated that they did not know and that it did not matter. The officers further indicated that they were following the orders of their supervisors, whom they refused to name.” The ACLU argued the policy was a prior restraint on speech and asked for a temporary restraining order.

As if the emphasis the ACLU’s point law enforcers in Ferguson put their boots on the faces of nine protesters, one of whom was a 90 year-old Holocaust survivor:

She knew about a gathering in downtown St. Louis to protest Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s decision to activate the National Guard. As she and her fellow protesters peacefully marched towards the Wainwright Building, where Nixon keeps an office, they chanted “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! National Guard has got to go!” and “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” according to The Nation. Some people gave speeches. Others held signs. Epstein says she and her fellow protesters aimed to walk into Nixon’s office and formally ask him to de-escalate the situation in Ferguson. But police and security officers blocked the door, preventing them from entering.

“I really didn’t think about being arrested or doing anything like that,” Epstein told Newsweek. “I was just going to be somebody in the crowd. I guess maybe I was impulsive: Someone said, ‘Who is willing to be arrested if that happens?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m willing.’”

A police officer informed the crowd that Nixon and his staff were not in the building, Epstein says, and urged them to leave. When she and eight other protesters refused, they were arrested for failure to disperse. Police handcuffed Epstein behind her back and took her to a nearby police substation. She was booked, given a court date of October 21, and then told she could leave.

I’m sure that won’t fan the flames even more! Sheesh. With the way law enforcers in Ferguson are acting you’d think they were trying to ignite the powder key that city has become.

We keep hearing about the violence occurring in Ferguson as a justification for law enforcer tactics. But law enforcer tactics are instigating violence by depriving people of peaceful means of addressing this situation. When people are being arrested for reporting on the situation, tear gassed for assembling peacefully, and being prevented from petitioning their government then the people perpetuating violence are going to feel justified and the people barred from peaceful action may turn to violent action instead.

Civil unrest needs to be handled with calm and cool heads. When the civil unrest is caused by police actions then the only way to properly resolve the situation is to have a neutral third party investigate the matter and make all information regarding the investigation available to the people. By actively oppressing peaceful protesters and restricting information regarding the investigation the law enforcers of Ferguson are guaranteeing continued civil unrest.